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Author Topic: Pseudopod 400: The Screwfly Solution  (Read 21048 times)

bounceswoosh

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Reply #25 on: August 29, 2014, 11:14:45 PM
I haven't read any Tiptree, but recently bought Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. This story was so well executed and treads a narrow line between over the top and all too believable.

The story was so good that when I picked my friend up to drive to a hike, I started telling her about it, and she said to go ahead and play it from the middle. So she listened to it only after Alan got to the airport layover, and it still impressed her.

Also regarding the soldier and the doctor: I thought the mayor did rape the doctor, hence why his privates were bloody. I thought the mayor had raped her, then pulled down her dress. After all, it was a scene staged specifically for the soldier's benefit.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #26 on: August 30, 2014, 12:05:13 AM
Also regarding the soldier and the doctor: I thought the mayor did rape the doctor, hence why his privates were bloody. I thought the mayor had raped her, then pulled down her dress. After all, it was a scene staged specifically for the soldier's benefit.

I had thought that it was possible that there was forced sexual entry of a... different sort, given the incisions in her neck and chest. That felt like a reference to the titular screwflies, who had been altered so that the male mated with the wrong body part.

Honestly, that felt like a bit of an inconsistency. It was quite clear that the men weren't becoming rapists - in fact, they were becoming strangely asexual. This wasn't sexualized violence, it was gendered violence, which is part of what made it so eerie. We're pretty inured to sexualized violence in our society, but I think that gendered violence - for example, those women who were gunned down by that maniac because they were women (now you're all going to say "which girl-gunning-down maniac do you mean" and I'm going to reply "I don't want to live on this planet anymore") - still bothers us. But then there's the scene with the mayor, and it leaves a lot of questions.

My take on it was that one of two things happened:

 1) There was a greater degree of sexualization to the killings than the narrator was reporting, but since all the narrators were more or less unreliable - even the main characters were restrained by not wanting to write about gory details before things got bad, or not wanting to bother writing about the horrible truths once it was too late to do anything about them anyway - it had to be implied sideways, which Tiptree did through the mayor scene. In this case, I'd call it Tiptree's only mistake in the story. I understand wanting to make the references to sexualized murder oblique, to account for the sensibilities of the characters, but if all you're going to do is imply it, you've got to do it more than once, especially if the rest of the content seems to imply that violence is replacing sex, not being added to it (and really, if violence was just being added to their sexual desires, why didn't they just all become kinky?).

2) The killings were more sexualized in an original draft, and Tiptree missed it in the mayor scene in an early draft.

Don't take this as serious criticism - I loved the story. But... the mayor scene did seem a bit odd to me.

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bounceswoosh

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Reply #27 on: August 30, 2014, 12:20:25 AM
Also regarding the soldier and the doctor: I thought the mayor did rape the doctor, hence why his privates were bloody. I thought the mayor had raped her, then pulled down her dress. After all, it was a scene staged specifically for the soldier's benefit.

I had thought that it was possible that there was forced sexual entry of a... different sort, given the incisions in her neck and chest. That felt like a reference to the titular screwflies, who had been altered so that the male mated with the wrong body part.

The alternate aperture had occurred to me (although not the analogy to screwflies), as well as the idea that maybe he masturbated during/after with blood on his hands.

Thanks, speculative fiction, for all the things you make me speculate about!

When Ann minimized her concerns, I thought, that's just how women are socialized- to minimize our fears of very real matters. And then I also wondered, what, not a single woman had access to a rifle or handgun? It might not have changed the overall outcome, of course. And just now it occurred to me: maybe just as the men were altered to become violent instead of sexual, the women were altered to be more passive and accepting.

And that led me to think, what if trans people weren't susceptible to this alteration? Or gay people? That might be an interesting angle to the story. Although again, probably wouldn't change the ultimate outcome.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #28 on: August 30, 2014, 12:32:40 AM
And that led me to think, what if trans people weren't susceptible to this alteration? Or gay people? That might be an interesting angle to the story. Although again, probably wouldn't change the ultimate outcome.

I suppose trans people might be effected weirdly if they're on HRT.

I thought there was a reference to young men being killed as well. I thought that was meant to represent gay men, who were widely thought in Tiptree's time (even among people who were decent to them) to prefer either young men or young-seeming adult men.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 11:02:37 AM by eytanz »

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Fenrix

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Reply #29 on: August 30, 2014, 11:59:00 AM
I'm pretty sure sexualized violence was recurring. I recall that there was implication that the dead boy in the airport bathroom had been raped before being killed.

I think the docile asexuality became more of a thing as all the women and children were killed or driven out, so there was no one around dressed like they "deserve it".

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SpareInch

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Reply #30 on: August 30, 2014, 12:05:15 PM
I got the impression from the scene when the main character took his knife out when he was fantasising about his wife, that the killer urge began as normal sexual desire. I had thought the mayor had raped the doctor up to that point, but then decided he had set out to do so, then killed her. Also, the women in the airport were all dressing frumpily so they would be safer, which implies they must have worked out the sex link for themselves.

The killer urge would seem to grow though, until simple gender is enough to trigger it, unless Tiptree had a very negative view of Daddy/Daughter relationships.

Another clue that the effect was sexually triggered was the murdered man in the toilets. Also confirming that Gay men were susceptible.

As for Trans people. I have no idea what would have happened at the time of the story, but I suspect only Transsexuals would have been taking hormones, so if they weren't effected, what difference would that make? There's no need to sterilise eunuchs, is there?

And even Pre Ops and, in today's world, Transvestites taking anti androgen or feminising hormones would still turn killer once the supply of their medication started to run out. Assuming they hadn't already been killed for looking too femme.

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #31 on: August 30, 2014, 04:51:56 PM
I think it's possible that the frumpy dressing wasn't to disguise their sex appeal, it was to describe their sex entirely.

I just see a little inconsistency. The mayor seems to have raped (or at least penetrated) the woman in the early part of the story, and it's true - there's some evidence that the man in the men's room was raped. His clothes were ripped off, for some reason, anyway. But then Alan describes the sensation as the sexual urge being replaced entirely with the urge to stab. He doesn't describe it as "we are going to have hot monkey sex and then I'll stab her" it's "why is my knife out? Oh shit! I was imagining stabbing my wife!" Also, the army dude who was infected, he did not seem to experience a fierce desire to rape and kill - rather, he experienced a calmer sense that the mayor's actions were correct, a certain complacency, which does not fit into the idea that it's purely based on arousal leading to both sex and murder, but to a more primal rewiring in which female = person to kill, not person to mate with.

Or perhaps I'm reading too much into the details.

Also, I wouldn't be so fast as to say that Alan killing his daughter means that the urge was purely gender-based. The part of your brain that appreciates the attractiveness of a potential mate doesn't care about the things that the higher part of your brain does, like how old they are or if they are related to you. Other parts of our brain take care of that. Tiptree might just have acknowledged that even a father can look at his daughter, and part of his brain can say "I'd hit that." The measure of a human being isn't what his lizard brain wants to bang, it's what he does about it.

So, obviously, the Human Solution had to do something to short-circuit that process, allowing arousal to put the mis-wired lizard brain in charge, which is why Alan killed his daughter.

I mean, otherwise most people would just become celibate or sublimate their new violent impulses to become incredibly kinky. And while that would be an interesting story, I don't think the story of how the entire world became kinksters is what Tiptree was trying to tell ;D.

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Listener

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Reply #32 on: September 02, 2014, 01:03:19 PM
The reason that this is awesomely good horror is because it makes you think about all the times you had the impulse to whack some annoying bitch. You didn't do it (presumably) because you knew that it would be wrong (I'm assuming) and you also knew that the consequences would be problematic (at best). But still, the impulse was there, and wouldn't it have been satisfying to indulge it?

I'm not sure who you meant by "you", but I for one have never had the impulse to "whack" a "bitch", and I don't think most of the folks on this forum have had the desire to violently assault a woman, either.

Unfortunately, the EA forum is not representative of actual humanity.

For one thing, if it was, humanity would be much more well-read and would take a lesson from the past and apply it to the present.

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Unblinking

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Reply #33 on: September 02, 2014, 01:04:26 PM
FWIW, I'm with ElectricPaladin that the mayor scene seemed inconsistent with the rest.

Also, I wouldn't be so fast as to say that Alan killing his daughter means that the urge was purely gender-based. The part of your brain that appreciates the attractiveness of a potential mate doesn't care about the things that the higher part of your brain does, like how old they are or if they are related to you. Other parts of our brain take care of that. Tiptree might just have acknowledged that even a father can look at his daughter, and part of his brain can say "I'd hit that." The measure of a human being isn't what his lizard brain wants to bang, it's what he does about it.

That was my take on it as well.



CaroCogitatus

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Reply #34 on: September 02, 2014, 04:40:52 PM
Fantastic story, well acted. Bravo.



blazingrebel

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Reply #35 on: September 03, 2014, 10:13:41 AM

Loved it too!! More gems like this please!!



albionmoonlight

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Reply #36 on: September 10, 2014, 08:34:53 PM
Loved it.  Was scared by it.  Can't say enough about it that has not been said above.

I do remember one part of the story where the protagonist noted that once the breeding population of a targeted insect got low enough, they stopped applying the poison because what was the point after that.  You are just a generation or two away from eradicating the pest.

Which makes me think that the aliens will soon stop pumping the poison into the jet stream.  Which leads to the horrific thought that these surviving men will get their humanity back before they die.  That at some point in the future, the poison will wear off, and they will start to have normal feelings and desires again and realize what they have done (even if most of them never know why).  At that point, it will be too late.



Moritz

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Reply #37 on: September 13, 2014, 01:35:18 PM
Congrats for number 400! And a good story for the anniversary as well. After listening to it, I didn't have access to the net for three days and had already thought out a thoughtful answer to the forum, but now I of course forgot it.  ;D

While listening to it I didn't even notice it was almost 40 years old.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #38 on: September 13, 2014, 03:34:52 PM
Loved it.  Was scared by it.  Can't say enough about it that has not been said above.

I do remember one part of the story where the protagonist noted that once the breeding population of a targeted insect got low enough, they stopped applying the poison because what was the point after that.  You are just a generation or two away from eradicating the pest.

Which makes me think that the aliens will soon stop pumping the poison into the jet stream.  Which leads to the horrific thought that these surviving men will get their humanity back before they die.  That at some point in the future, the poison will wear off, and they will start to have normal feelings and desires again and realize what they have done (even if most of them never know why).  At that point, it will be too late.

Eh. If it's any "consolation," the way the human brain works, most of them will have justified their actions to the point that "I kill women" is part of their self-schema and will remain so even after the poison goes away.

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Reply #39 on: September 17, 2014, 12:26:15 PM
Loved it.  Was scared by it.  Can't say enough about it that has not been said above.

I do remember one part of the story where the protagonist noted that once the breeding population of a targeted insect got low enough, they stopped applying the poison because what was the point after that.  You are just a generation or two away from eradicating the pest.

Which makes me think that the aliens will soon stop pumping the poison into the jet stream.  Which leads to the horrific thought that these surviving men will get their humanity back before they die.  That at some point in the future, the poison will wear off, and they will start to have normal feelings and desires again and realize what they have done (even if most of them never know why).  At that point, it will be too late.

Eh. If it's any "consolation," the way the human brain works, most of them will have justified their actions to the point that "I kill women" is part of their self-schema and will remain so even after the poison goes away.

Also, if I were the aliens, I'd keep applying the poisons later in the case of humanity because unlike insects given the chance we might come up with a scientific counter if given the chance.



Tori

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Reply #40 on: September 23, 2014, 11:42:06 AM
This is the first story to give me nightmares in years. Great stuff.
Me too Fenrix



davidthygod

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Reply #41 on: September 26, 2014, 05:28:33 PM
As I was listening, it kept sounding like a very familiar premise.  I definitely remember it from Masters of Horror. 

This was great, way better than what I remember about the MoH adaptation.  Great production value on this one too.

This should get an Escape Pod replay, it has more scifi elements that a lot of what is on EP at times.


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Unblinking

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Reply #42 on: September 26, 2014, 06:01:37 PM
This should get an Escape Pod replay, it has more scifi elements that a lot of what is on EP at times.

Nah, for those of us who listen to all the casts, wouldn't want to redundify the content.  :)  I think the only time that's happened (and with good reason) was when a Podcastle story got nominated for the Hugo and so re-ran on Escape Pod in Hugo Month. 

I think there's a thread over in the Escape Pod section to recommend Pseudopod stories that EP listeners might dig, so this would be a good one to suggest there.



davidthygod

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Reply #43 on: September 26, 2014, 06:19:57 PM
Nah, for those of us who listen to all the casts, wouldn't want to redundify the content.  :)  I think the only time that's happened (and with good reason) was when a Podcastle story got nominated for the Hugo and so re-ran on Escape Pod in Hugo Month. 

I think there's a thread over in the Escape Pod section to recommend Pseudopod stories that EP listeners might dig, so this would be a good one to suggest there.

Thanks,  I agree that the "redundification" would be annoying (I listen to both as well), but I was really just taking a dig at EP for covering so many stories that aren't all that scifi : ).  Its an irritating need of mine to nitpick things that I really like.  Don't ever change EP.

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Reply #44 on: January 05, 2015, 02:53:20 PM
I put this as #1 on my Best of Pseudopod 2014 list posted this morning:
http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=12662



Fenrix

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Reply #45 on: January 26, 2015, 08:40:20 PM

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Quib

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Reply #46 on: January 27, 2015, 10:32:14 AM
More fuel for the fire: http://io9.com/millions-of-mutated-mosquitoes-could-be-unleashed-in-fl-1681781555
no that's not fuel on any fire. This is a tested means of pest control. releasing infertile males.  I'm going to flip out over the needless fear mongering over the word "genetic".

I'm not sure what you meant there, just willful ignorance and anti-science as political, it makes me so mad.

Back on topic,
The part of the story that really unsettled me was the military cult, and the neologisms. Because it isn't just biological impulses, it's the impulses and responses filtered through a culture that others and devalues women. I don't know what specific groups were being referenced in '77, but there's still groups where a person could discuss the murder of "crypto-females" and fit right in.

The inconsistency and uncertainty made it a more well rounded story for me.



Fenrix

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Reply #47 on: January 27, 2015, 02:16:21 PM
More fuel for the fire: http://io9.com/millions-of-mutated-mosquitoes-could-be-unleashed-in-fl-1681781555
no that's not fuel on any fire. This is a tested means of pest control. releasing infertile males.  I'm going to flip out over the needless fear mongering over the word "genetic".

I'm not sure what you meant there, just willful ignorance and anti-science as political, it makes me so mad.

Back on topic,


The articled was actually quite relevant, seeing as pest control like this was the scientific basis for the story. Reading the article made me think immediately of this story and it squidged me out again.

Also, io9 is generally about as pro-science as it gets. Popular science, for sure, but I'm struggling to see what really made you angry about the article. Could you elaborate?

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davidthygod

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Reply #48 on: January 27, 2015, 09:17:49 PM
Next step in this debate is to start railing against vaccinations and GMOs.  How dare science try and cure people and feed the world. 

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Quib

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Reply #49 on: January 28, 2015, 11:10:10 AM
Also, io9 is generally about as pro-science as it gets. Popular science, for sure, but I'm struggling to see what really made you angry about the article. Could you elaborate?
It's just a stupid, bad thing that there are significant groups of people whose brains shut down to some degree at the words "genetically modified".

I get that iO9 is using it in a funny click bait way, but it's still the opposite of productive dialog to frame it as "mutant mosquitoes could be unleashed" (first off, no one makes leashes for mosquitoes). They aren't bad and stupid, but the bad, stupid things are kept in motion by people who should know better engaging in "debates" that foster a false sense of equivalency.

I came to the forums partly because of how nice Alasdair keeps saying they are, so I'm trying to hold back from a full blown rant, but I could if that would be entertaining to people.